Initially drawn to this historic fiction title by Robert Hicks simply from the description: I love historic fiction and the ability to reframe situations and time periods in ways that are often more accessible than a drier non-fiction tome. Please read on for my review of
The Orphan Mother
Starting in 1912, the bequest from former slave Mariah Reddick is substantial enough to construct a chapel or a library. Representatives from this black university wish for the building to be named for her, an honor she refuses. It is not who she is that makes the gift possible, it is the journeys that she and others took to get there, and her wish that opportunities for more and different be afforded to others.
Slowly from here, we are told of her story as I unfolded during the years after the Civil War. Surrounded by the losers in that conflict, yet “free” Mariah provides a service to the women of Franklin Tennessee, she is a midwife. As the story unfolds, Hicks takes us through the tensions, prejudices and rumors running rife.
Ultimately, Mariah’s story touches on life, loss, love, hatred and fears, and shows in ways that are not unique to the human experience. Persevering and moving forward in her search for answers as she overcomes or simply moves on despite obstacles. Surprisingly resonant in today’s climate, the divisions, the outright hostilities and Mariah’s single-minded determination to resolve the mystery surrounding her son’s death are gripping and viscerally impacting.
Hicks has managed to open the door to situations of struggle, loss, societal upheaval and the fear-driven rumors that exacerbate situations, building the world in ways that create visual images and emotional reactions from readers. It’s not always pretty, or particularly comfortable to see the naked hatreds, the prejudices and slights that are blatant and more shocking for their normalcy. A wonderful read that leaves a lasting impression, even for those (who like me) have not read A Widow of the South.
Title: The Orphan Mother: A Novel
Author: Robert Hicks
Genre: African-American, Civil War Era, Historical Fiction, Setting: American
Published by: Grand Central Publishing
Published on: 13 September 2016
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 10 Hours: 26 minutes
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An epic account of one remarkable woman's quest for justice from the New York Times bestselling author of The Widow of the South and A Separate Country.
In the years following the Civil War, Mariah Reddick, former slave to Carrie McGavock--the "Widow of the South"--has quietly built a new life for herself as a midwife to the women of Franklin, Tennessee. But when her ambitious, politically minded grown son, Theopolis, is murdered,
Mariah--no stranger to loss--finds her world once more breaking apart. How could this happen? Who wanted him dead? Mariah's journey to uncover the truth leads her to unexpected people--including George Tole, a recent arrival to town, fleeing a difficult past of his own--and forces her to confront the truths of her own past.
Brimming with the vivid prose and historical research that has won Robert Hicks recognition as a "master storyteller" (San Francisco Chronicle).
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.